As of 2016, the worldwide market for beauty supplements was worth $3.5 billion, and is estimated to reach $6.8 Billion by 2024 per Goldstein Research. We see beauty Instagrammers, reality stars, and makeup gurus touting tiny capsules of promise in the hair loss battle. If you are wondering if and how supplements can help you, consider the following.
A supplement should be used as an addition to your current diet and wellness efforts.
If you do not have a diet that fuels your body, or you do not drink enough water, get enough sleep, exercise regularly, or mitigate your daily stressors, no vitamin, mineral, or herb is going to fix the situation.
- Make sure to eat a varied, well-planned diet that incorporates the minimum recommended daily allowances of all nutrients, paying particular attention to the following.
- Omega 3 fatty acids. These are found in freshwater fish such as salmon, walnuts, hemp and flax seeds, and algal oil.
- Protein: Get adequate amounts of protein from legumes, nuts, lean meats, and fish.
- B12: Vitamin B12, which is found in meats, eggs, dairy, and some fortified nut milks and cereals (always check labels) often needs to be supplemented when following a vegan diet.
- Biotin: Biotin, which is touted for its ability to help grow strong, resilient hair, is found in high amounts in egg yolks, canned salmon, and beef liver.
- Zinc: Zinc helps the oil glands around the hair follicles to function correctly. It is in nuts and shellfish.
- Selenium: Selenium can be found in fish and nuts, especially Brazil nuts.
- Calcium: You can find Calcium in dairy products, dark leafy green vegetables, tofu, and dried fruits.
- Vitamin A: This vitamin is in carrots, oranges, and leafy greens.
- Drink at least 64 ounces of water per day.
- Get regular exercise, adequate amounts of sleep, and try to keep your stress levels in check with yoga, meditation, deep breathing exercises, or a trip to the spa.
When you choose to supplement certain vitamins and minerals due to dietary deficiencies, take the right precautions.
This is always best done under the care of a Physician or Trichologist. He or she can recommend lab tests to help ensure that you are not over or under-supplementing certain nutrients which can lead to further hair loss or other health issues. For example, Biotin at very high doses can skew lab test results or lead to cystic acne (even if you have gone through menopause). Too much vitamin A can cause more hair loss. Selenium, when over supplemented, can easily lead to toxicity which will act like heavy metal toxicity in the body. This is because it is in multivitamins and many hair loss supplements, and can sometimes be in ground-water, so please pay attention to labels. Iron deficiency is a common problem, but too much iron can lead to serious health issues.
Be Wary of Label Claims
As curlies, we know how to ignore the front of a product bottle and flip it over to see what’s inside. It is the same with supplements. Claims that seem to be too good to be true likely are.
Know that no supplement is clinically proven to regrow lost hair, so if you see this claim, it is false. Supplements, however, can help correct deficiencies, reduce inflammation that may be contributing to hair loss, and support your overall health.
Supplementation: a Trichologist’s View
For a Trichologist’s take on supplements, I contacted Sophia Emmanuel of Crown Worthy for a Q and A. Her insights can help you determine what types of supplements may be right for different types of hair loss.
Question: Are DHT blockers helpful? DHT blockers are supplements that inhibit dihydrotestosterone, a potent androgen hormone that binds to androgen receptors in the hair follicles and is a cause of female pattern hair loss (FPHL).
Answer: Since female pattern hair loss is a progressive type of hair loss, we cannot stop it. We can, however, use saw palmetto, green tea extract or sunflower seed oil, for example, to inhibit DHT, the hormone responsible for miniaturization (thick strands turning into fine, thin strands of hair) to slow it down.
Q: Can supplements be useful when the hair loss is due to an autoimmune issue like Lupus?
A: When it comes to hair loss related to an autoimmune issue, herbs and supplements are not going to help you if you do not know what type of hair loss you have and why it is happening. First you need to be diagnosed by a doctor on the type of hair loss you have. You need to know what is triggering it. There are some diseases such as Lupus or the medications taken for Lupus that can cause hair loss. This is why seeing a doctor is crucial if you think you have any type of hair loss because hair loss in some cases can give clues to medical problems you are having. This can be found out by running blood tests with a primary doctor or a dermatologist. If the hair loss is related to a skin disease like Alopecia Areata, you can take L-Tyrosine an amino acid that reverses the autoimmune response in the skin, that causes inflammation. Reducing inflammation can help reduce hair loss, and symptoms of inflammation like sensitive scalp or sore scalp.
Question: What are your recommendations for Telogen Effluvium?
A: Telogen Effluvium can correct itself depending on the cause. You can take supplements for overall hair and body health. Sometimes test results come back normal, but Telogen Effluvium may still occur. In this case taking a hair supplement won’t hurt. If you see excessive hair loss, always go to your doctor and have blood tests run, just to be sure.
Question: What kinds of tests do you recommend for your clients who are experiencing hair loss?
The tests I recommend depend on what I find out during the consultation with the client and what I suspect is triggering the condition. Because hair is a non-essential tissue it can be affected by slight changes in the body. Although test results can be normal for body health, for hair health the results are different. Some of the tests we look at are vitamin D, vitamin B, zinc, iron, ferritin levels, sex and thyroid levels such as T3, T4, TSH, DHEA, Testosterone, prolactin, and follicle stimulating hormone.
Have you ever used hair loss supplements? Let us know if the comments. For more of Sophia’s recommendations click here.